Many are experiencing difficult economic times, and some of you have fallen behind on your credit card bills. When the calls start coming in, you answer them and cooperate with the debt collector feeling as though you’ll be able to catch up with the payments soon enough. You also don’t want your credit score to suffer. You’re thinking that if you cooperate with the “nice” debt collector, he won’t rush to report you to the credit bureaus and ruin your credit score.
You may have been able to make the next month’s payment or even catch up, but then you fall behind again and possibly miss payments on other credit cards. And eventually those collectors start calling too.
Whatever and however you ended up here, you never meant to fall behind. And you swear that you want to pay them back, but can’t. Unfortunately, the calls do not stop. What at first were friendly reminders and request for payments, turn into persistent and menacing calls for immediate payment.
Once the calls become undignified and insulting, the debtors collectors may have crossed the line and violated the FDCPA. We’ve covered this law extensively in our other tutorials and recommend that you listen to them if you believe they may be misleading you, or if they begin to use profanity or other tactics which are harassing in nature. If they do these things, you may have a claim. You can also call us at 305 771-DEBT or visit us at http://www.defendusnow.com.
Now let’s suppose that the calls are respectful and, while firm, do not insult, threaten you or violate the FDCPA in any way. But they are consistent. You’re tired of asking for more time, more understanding. They give you time, but ask for some sort of payment. You eventually stop answering their calls.
Now the ringing of the phone itself becomes the constant reminder that you’re behind on your payment. When the phone rings, you’re thinking “I hope that’s not a 1-800 number”. When you check the caller ID, if it is a debt collector, you may let it ring and may even delete the messages without even listening to them.
Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. Simply answer the call and get the person’s name, their business name and business address and mail them a letter asking that the phone calls stop and that all communication be in writing.
Now, there are a lot of things you could have done better. For example, you could have asked that they validate the debt. This would have ceased all communication until they validate the debt. Sometimes they may never be able to. These calls will stop until they do.
Either way, send the letter, whether it be a letter asking that they validate the debt (which I recommend you do first) or a letter asking them to stop calling, but send the letter certified so that you can later prove that the letter was sent and received.
If the calls continue, they have violated the FDCPA and you have a claim against them. You may never be able to pay them, but if you ever negotiate with them, be sure to know that a lawsuit for an FDCPA violation will certainly give you the leverage you need to get the terms that work for you.
If you’d like to get a FREE consultation with us to review your situation and tell you whether or not you have a claim, call us at 305 771-DEBT or visit us at http://www.defendusnow.com. It is totally free. It’s our way of giving back. And if you do have a claim, you won’t have to pay us. We’ll make sure that the debt collector pays our fees and costs – and if we don’t, then you still pay nothing. But you have to call us now. Call 305-771-DEBT or visit our website now at http://www.defendusnow.com.
I just ran into an Entrepreneur Magazine article with tips about writing off meals and entertainment costs for your business. There was a time that meals and entertainment was 100% deductible as a business expense. The IRS, however, has historically been very leery of some of these dinners and events and keeps chipping away at the expenses that qualify. For example, you may not be able to write off the dinner your wife or husband enjoyed while you were legitimately having business dealings with a partner or prospect. As always, be sure to consult with your accountant to determine what is and is not a deductible meal and entertainment expense.
Whenever you have a business lunch or dinner, though, be sure to write down (it is best to do this on the actual receipt) who was there with you, what sort of business was conducted and when (before, during or after the mean). By keeping this information on the receipt, you also maintain the date, time and place of the lunch or dinner.
Has anyone ever had the IRS question a meal or entertainment expense? We’d love to hear about what issue the IRS had and how you resolved it.
Real Estate Agents must always remain in control of their real estate closings, beginning with the listing agreement and right on through to the closing. Unfortunately, some Agents still believe that upon the signing of the Purchase and Sale Agreement, the only thing they need to do is sit back and wait for the commission check to arrive. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Real Estate Agents who have been in the business for a while know that their work begins when the purchase and sale contract is signed. If the following ten steps are taken, an Agent will find that the work that leads up to closing is much smoother and the chances of having issues preventing a successful sale are diminished considerably.
1. Establishing the Effective Date.
If there is a fully executed contract and everyone has initialed every page and every handwritten change, an “effective date” of the contract can be determined. When things are required to be done by the Buyer or Seller under the contract is first determined by the effective date. Make sure both sides agree on the effective date and get out your date planner. It would be good practice to write a note to your clients outlining the dates. It will help you remember all the important dates. Be aware that every contract contains the phrase “Time is of the essence”, which means that ‘Almost’ only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and nuclear war. If you miss the date you’ve breached the contract. Stick to the dates!
2. The Mortgage Application.
The first deadline is usually the mortgage application. Make sure the Buyer does it within the timeframe specified, usually five (5) days. Ensure that the Buyer has documentation verifying the date of the application.
3. Additional Deposits.
Sometimes, contracts call for additional deposits to be made. I hate to play lawyer (that’s not true) but failure to meet this date, or any other date, is a breach of contract! Make sure you send or receive confirmation in writing. Escrow letters should be made part of your file – ask for them.
4. Title Documentation.
Get the title information (prior title policy) to the closing agent (me, I hope) or confirm that the Seller has none to give. This should have been done upon listing the property.
5. Existing Mortgage Payoff Information.
Get the mortgage payoff information (company, loan number and telephone number) to the closing agent so that the payoff can be requested early on. It also doesn’t hurt to get a written authorization from the Seller (lenders sometimes require one before providing this information).
6. Condominium or Homeowner Associations.
If it is a condominium or homeowner association, obtain the necessary payoff information. The association documents hopefully have been delivered to the Buyer, triggering the rescission period time clock. If it is a condo, start the approval process immediately.
7. Home Inspections, Municipal Code Violations and Buyer’s Right to Cancel.
Make sure inspections are done and the written reports delivered to the Buyer. If the Buyer disapproves of the report, make sure a report is delivered to the Seller if the contract calls for it, and send notice of intent to cancel within the contract deadline. Recommend to the Buyer that a municipal lien search (also referred to as “lien letters”) be obtained through the closing agent early on. Some contracts require that municipal issues, such as code enforcement violations or citations and open permits, be raised and objected to during the inspection period, otherwise they are waived.
8. Homeowner’s Insurance.
Make sure the Buyer has selected an insurance agent to obtain Hazard Insurance. Insurance agents must take pictures of the property, which takes some time. Even if it is a condo (where a homeowner’s policy is not necessary), suggest that the buyer obtain contents/liability insurance anyway.
9. Boundary Survey.
Although the title agent orders the survey, don’t assume that it will automatically happen. When the Buyer is purchasing the property without financing (i.e., an all-cash deal), title agents often assume that the buyer does not want to obtain a survey or simply neglect to obtain one. This is can turn out to be a terrible mistake for the Buyer. There’s a reason why lenders demand that a survey be obtained: an encroachment can affect the use of the property, the value of the property and can affect the owner’s ability to later obtain financing. It can also lead to litigation. Worse yet, it can lead to a very upset client. Make certain that the Buyer is aware of the importance of obtaining a survey. If a survey will be performed, make the Sellers aware that a surveyor will come by to inspect the property boundary lines so that there are no confusion or delays. Sometimes it may take some arranging to get the surveyor on the property, so make sure that the title agent doesn’t delay in ordering one.
10. Following Up With Lender.
Follow up with the Lender to ensure that the Buyer has done everything required. You want to make sure that the file gets submitted to underwriting! If has not been submitted, something is incomplete and the Buyer may need some help.
Real Estate Agents should get to know an experienced Real Estate Attorney that is hands-on and should begin by asking other agents of known law firms that handle real estate closings. By doing so, they may find that the deals close a bit easier and with less involvement on their part. Getting an attorney title agent involved in the deal from the beginning, as opposed to just a title agent, will also allow title defects and other legal matters to be resolved quickly without resorting to a last minute search for an attorney to rescue the deal on an emergency basis! After all, real estate attorneys do not charge any more for their closing services than title agents do. And yet you get all the added benefits should the need arise.
Once the deal is closed, then you can start relaxing on your hammock.
A free online service is now available that provides the credit counseling course (and certificate of completion) that is required to be taken by individual debtors prior to filing a voluntary petition. This course, offered by ConsumerBankruptcyCounseling.info as a public service, has received authorization from the Executive Office for the United States Trustee, United States Department of Justice, to service all districts except for the District of Alabama and the District of North Carolina. Click here to link to the website.
To view a list of all approved credit counseling providers in Florida’s Southern District, visit the United States Trustee’s website here.
Prior to choosing any provider, verify that it is still on the approved list and that it can provide the service that permits a debtor to timely compy with the pre-filing credit counseling requirements.
Recently, officials at GMAC Mortgage, a division of Ally Financial, Inc., JP Morgan/Chase, and most recently Bank of America announced that they are halting evictions of foreclosed borrowers and are halting REO sales in 23 states, including Florida.
In fact, several [title insurance] agents have reported receiving written cancellation of pending transactions involving these lenders. Accordingly, Old Republic policies may not be issued insuring REO sales after completion of foreclosure by these two lenders.
There is no prohibition on writing title insurance on short sales or following a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure involving these lenders or any prohibition against insuring titles where a mortgage foreclosure by Ally Bank/GMAC, JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America appears in the back chain of title.
It happens more often than not: a homeowner wanting to modify his home mortgage loan despite the many reasons not to. The fact that most find themselves owing more to the lender than the home is worth is lost among the few reasons they find to save it. Due to the decline in market value, the single most crucial element of a mortgage loan modification is a principal reduction – yet it is rarely offered. Despite this, the homeowner usually jumps at the chance to temporarily reduce his mortgage payment. And temporary it is.
The initial interest rate provided under the HAMP program, as well as in-house modification programs, gradually rises after the modification is finalized until they reach a predetermined ceiling. Every case is different, but for the most part, that initial interest rate of, say, 2½% simply won’t stay there for long. Inevitably, the interest rate will continue to rise and that initial monthly payment will rise right along with it. Albeit, the overall terms may end up being better than the original, but homeowners can not ignore the fact that they remain underwater (the loan amount far exceeding the current value of the home). A short-term reduction in the monthly payment, without a substantial reduction in principal, will not provide enough of an economic benefit to offset the negative equity in the home.
A recent article in CNNMoney.com found that lenders have come to the realization that, just like with short sales, modifying a mortgage loan is a less costly option for them than going through the foreclosure process and taking title to the property. The government’s HAMP guidelines, however, are not flexible – leaving many homeowners out in the cold. Lenders, though, are now more amenable to approving in-house modifications where guidelines are less rigid and even allow for principal reductions (though don’t bank on a sizable reduction) which are not permitted under HAMP. In fact, as CNNMoney.com reported, far more in-house modifications have been approved by lenders than those under the HAMP program.
“Banks are doing nearly twice as many modifications under their own foreclosure prevention initiatives than under the Obama administration’s signature Home Affordable Modification Program, known as HAMP.” Surprise! Banks help more homeowners than Obama, CNNMoney.com, By Tami Luhby, August 30, 2010.
Data released months ago shows that lenders lose 20-30% less money when they approve a short sale as opposed to foreclosing on the property owner. And 10-20% less money is lost when they modify a loan. A short sale, though, is not always appealing to a homeowner that wants to stay in his or her home. Owners are far more likely to choose the short sale option when it concerns second homes and investment properties (which, by the way, do not qualify for modifications under HAMP, no matter what cousin Ed tells you). Unfortunately, everything learned in Economics 101 goes out the window when it comes to a principal residence. This leaves a large number of homeowners wanting a loan modification even though they shouldn’t.
Because homeowners are not as rational when evaluating the investment aspect of primary residences, they seem to be less concerned about owing more to the bank than what the home is worth. While most will acknowledge that they are underwater (indeed, sometimes more than twice the value is owed), they dread the loss of the home even more.
Ignoring the hard facts masks the most sensible option: a short sale. With far smaller rental payments for homes equal in size – if not larger – and in the same neighborhood, homeowners are nonetheless compelled to save their current homes despite the cost. The old mindset that everyone should own their home is difficult to shake. Since the homeowner does not have to face the music for a few years, they cling on to the hope that their financial situation will improve and quite possibly find that that their home’s value has increased enough to have made the saving of the home worthwhile.
The future is unpredictable, but the numbers do not lie. Saving a home worth far less than what is owed, is not always the answer. Unless there is equity in the home or some other compelling reason, the homeowner should seriously consider a short sale and forget about a temporary modification.